Hi Folks
    I've not been keeping up with my occasional newsletter since late last year.  Apologies to my regular reader(s), it's just been a bit busy and the weather nicer for more of the time.
    So what's been happening?  Quite a lot, although little of earth shattering importance. I'm a bit older, a few bits are starting to show signs of wear and tear, but nothing dramatic, just a tooth or two, a stiff back and my memory, not that it was ever pin sharp...or at least as far as I can remember....
    A couple of notable events were Mum's 90th birthday party, which went well. I'll probably be told the photo makes her look 'elderly'. My answer is she's still upright, and, and I think you'll have to agree, not bad for 90. Anyone who disagrees had best note she carries a knife. 
    While Mum is still gallivanting I'm sorry to add that about the same time I lost an old friend, Tom Floate. He was my engineering mentor for about 40 years. I think he was about a year older than Mum. There must have had good quality control back then.  Tom had a 'good' funeral, arranged very tidily by his daughter Susan. There was a wake in the house he grew up in which is now a Bistro Cafe in Bishops Waltham.     Considering that a funeral is never going to be the lightest of events it was not at all gloomy, the weather stayed fair and the service nicely done. I had the honour of saying a few words by way of an eulogy, and bearing in mind that as he was 91 and many of his friends and relations were of a similar age, there was a good turn out. I was quite surprised how many remembered Dad and the family from the farm, which is a couple of miles up the road from Tom's home. That's him on the right on his Triumph which he was always adjusting and maintaining to the original standards. Having designed and built motorcycles for NVT he wasn't one for add-ons and racing stripes.

    Back here there's been a fair bit of do-gooding with the local charity, several loads of wood delivered to various locals who find fuel bills a bit problematic. I've had considerable help cutting the trees down, shifting, logging and chopping, but as I deliver the firewood it looks as though I have done it all. Sadly two of my trailers have started to fail, a combination of age and overloading, but none of them were new when I got them so it's difficult to pin the blame. It won't be a problem for long though as the tow-car, a Vauxhall Zafira, is reaching the end of its working life. Planned obsolescence mainly, a very annoying aspect of manufacturing, although I suppose it does allow modernisation. I can see why it is better to bring in more efficient equipment, but surely a properly serviced car or washing machine could run reliably for 20 years. Tom, mentioned above had a 50 year old washing machine which was, given a few new bits of rubber and an updated motor quite capable of another 20. I think his wife appreciates the newer version though, the old one was more manual than than automatic and quite hard work. Modern electronics have made its replacement much easier to use, but they'll only run for 10, so it's really a matter of making the new ones a bit more robust and more recyclable. I favour a rental system where the manufacturer does the renting. That would encourage longer lasting and more efficient machines as long as there was competition between makers. I remember Fiona's father never saw the advantage of an automatic washing machine until he had to do the washing for a few weeks. 
    I'm not too bothered by the failing Zafira, or the trailers, as hopefully the 26th of May will bring the new EV. Rather later than the original January delivery date, but that's the problems with cutting edge technology and Brexit and, no doubt, various other factors I'm quite unaware of. Unknown unknowns as they are called. It would probably be a bit late to call the ENV200 cutting edge, new tech is progressing so rapidly, but it's as metaphorically sharp as I can afford just now, and big enough to have some carrying capacity. Sadly the towing option on EVs doesn't seem to have come through yet, so the trailers will get scrapped or sold. I can't say they owe me anything, most were cheap or free and definitely not new. The folding caravan should sell with a bit of luck (£5000 to strangers, maybe a bit less to family and friends). An upside will be a slightly reduced chance of putting my back out, which is always an option when moving trailers around.
    On the subject of health however, I did develop a rather stiff back, mainly because of a burst disc, (lifting roof tiles a couple of decades ago) and more recently a stiff neck. The last was a bit unexpected as I hadn't done anything to provoke it. Our tenant (in the rental house) hit ice, rolled, and wrote off her car at the same time to the hour, as my neck went. She and the ambulance crew were surprised at the lack of injuries, so I can only assume my landlord/tenant agreement has some very small print somewhere. Certainly a bit weird though.
    I have decided there's a lot we aren't told, but I can't be bothered with conspiracy theories.Reality is weird enough. It may be more a matter of what we don't understand. I worry more about them being called theories, rather than hypotheses, but that's just the language changing with the times. Of course it could be the hidden powers trying to dilute the strength of scientific theory by degrading the word....

    I do wonder however if they all come from one source and the thought came to me that perhaps Kennedy was shot by a seven foot lizard in a flying saucer (cloaked of course) which was on a mission to kidnap Elvis for the Atlanteans and take him back to the underground world accessed by the Bermuda triangle. OK it's not likely, but it would keep the conspiracy hypothesists busy.

​   On the subject of conspiracy I see the dear old US of A has continued its anti scientific trend. That's fine, they voted for it but I think they'll lose a lot of scientists to other countries, and as the UK seems to be dead set on Brexit come hell or high water, maybe Scotland will go independent, (re)join the EU and invite them in. We shall see.

    On a quite different note I have picked up another small red sports-car, an MX-5. I can't really excuse it except that it will provide a back-up to the Zafira and then the EV. It's not as rare as the Midge, but waterproof, reasonably economical to drive and fun. Mainly though it was just too good a bargain to pass on and should actually appreciate in value. Apparently the gearbox and the hard top are much sought after, so I can't lose if the iron worm makes an appearance. I had it up on a four post lift to have a squint underneath and it seems pretty tidy, the mechanic made me an offer of more than I paid while it was up there, but I'm quite happy with it as it is, being as close as I can get to a newish Triumph Spitfire, an inexplicable favourite of mine. This shows the back end which is less than ideal, but it is easier to get into, the garage being a bit tight now.
    I imagine a few will think I'm having a mid-life crisis, which is fine assuming I live to be 130. Since several people have suggested I was born middle aged (which just means boring really) and second childhood is well documented, I may be able to remain unchanged well past the century.

    Of course that's all going to look a bit silly if I wrap myself around a lamp post, so I'll try not to do that. Scottish drivers, combined with erratic weather have replaced a lot of dry stone dykes and fencing with blue and white ribbon, so you can usually see the slippery bits from a distance. Those bits you can't see, usually around a blind bend, are clearly marked by their not being visible, but the yoofs in hot hatches don't seem to have recognized that.

    I had considered a hybrid car (combined petrol and electric), as I could have a tow-bar on that, but I doubt they'll be on the market much as longer range EVs become cheaper. The government might even accelerate the process by getting serious about global warming. I'm not talking about the current government, they obviously aren't, perhaps the electorate will notice that the 'elite' think they can buy oxygen with money when it comes to the crunch, but then it has worked so far.

    Obviously I've had more than a few friends express concern about my being able to run an electric car in the wilds of Scotland. Most seem to think I'll get a range of less than 50 miles, and will have difficulty finding charge points. The error in their thinking, in my opinion, comes from remembering short range hybrids and buggies, and, in the older ones, probably milk floats. I'll not start a re-education program but I do wish cynics would at least sit in an EV. Most have never seen one, don't see charge points, and certainly haven't driven in one. That and not taking the stuff put out by the oil companies at face value

    I will be interested to see how the governments recoup the petrol and diesel revenue though. 95% of the UK 'road fund licence' doesn't go into roads, the tax on fuel is quite large and there's a lot of other income streams that are going to be seriously reduced as EVs take over if they don't reinstate the tax disc in some way. I think it will turn out to be road use based and/or an increase in income tax, but I cannot see them just taking the hit without reaction. Sadly I think most of the government doesn't think that far ahead. More or less proven by the lack of action on global warming

Or they could just stop subsidising oil, gas and nuclear, and drop vanity projects like nuclear weapons, the House of Lords and Brexit.

Only joking... that's not going to happen. Maybe they'll just get Amazon to pay some taxes.

​   There's been quite a warm spell and now a little damp, so the garden has exploded as usual. The Rhododendrons had a bit of special fertiliser (don't ask me)  and came out all of a rush. The flowering currant, a plant very popular with bees, turned from a few sticks to a sizeable bush in a matter of days and... 


 the Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis) has flowered at last, with a second bud on its way. We have had them grow in the garden more by accident than design, and usually in an obscure corner under the garage, but this was the first deliberate one. One of Peter's seeds I believe, so thank you Peter. Not the best of photos, I had difficulty in focussing on the head and it kept moving. By the time I looked at the photo it had started 'going over' so it was too late to re-do it. Maybe the second bud will sit still.

    Errol is well considering his age, now well past 19 and rather boney, he now expects a small part of whatever we are eating. Especially late night ice cream. He has loved the last several days of sunshine and so spent most of it sprawled and dozing in the porch. He’s looking a bit ruffled here because he has just woken up from his second favourite occupation of sleeping in his chair, but thought he’d get up and have a drink, check out the porch for sunshine (nearly warm enough) and wait for lunch. 

Keep well, 
Jim and Fiona

Some of the charging points around here